What amazes me about top class players is not only their relentless desire to push for game when fits come to light, but their ability to pull off all these fragile contracts. For them distribution and shape count for everything, with HCPs being of little consideration. I too subscribe to that view but I tend to be a tad more circumspect. So let me tell you what happened in a recent teams match, when my inexperienced team-mates were up against two of England's best. On both tables the East/West pairs both reached 4H on a combined 22 count, after South had opened the bidding 1NT.
West held : Axx.......10x.......xx.....AK10xxx
East held : K107x...QJ76xx...KQx......(void )
On one table it was an opposition South who looking down at his Q6....AK9....Axxx.......xxxx, thinking what to do for the best . " Partner must have very little. However, it is within the realms of possibility he might have something in spades. If I volunteer the queen of spades, there is the vague hope partner might just have the king setting up a natural spade trick and a spade ruff. However, if he hasn't the king, but the jack instead, then my lead might well fool the opponents into believing that that card lies with me. "
So our declarer on this table sensibly took the first trick in hand with the King. But it was the play at trick 2 which was critical. The chosen card here was a small heart up to dummy's 10. Oh dear....the opposition South hopped up with the Ace, cashed the heart king and returned the 6 of spades. Declarer not surprisingly allowed this to run round to his presumed 10 of spades winner. So when North popped up with the jack to then provide his partner with a spade ruff with his one remaining heart, the contract proceeded to go 2 down.
At my table, it was my partner who was sitting South, and he too found the inspired queen of spades opening lead. But this time the opposition declarer had a little deceptive plan of his own. Taking the opening trick in hand with the king, he cunningly led at trick 2 the queen of diamonds. South unwittingly ducked. Quickly, declarer went across to dummy with the Ace of spades, pitching his two remaining diamonds on the A/K of clubs. Coming off table with the 3 of spades, he only had to lose two more tricks in hearts tricks. Game made.
And the moral of this tale ? Well firstly, if as declarer you are in dodgy games...... subterfuge may be your best bet to bring home an almost impossible contract. Secondly, if you are defending a beatable contract and your deceptive lead might well have created a winning position , then don't allow sloppy play to give back the initiative to a grateful declarer .